Another View: President's behavior raises serious questions - Do we have the courage to ask them?


The revelations of the last week — President Donald Trump's phone call with a foreign power, allegations that the White House tried to cover it up — are very serious, and every American should agree to that. But the divisions over the president's behavior seem to be widening, and in many ways, that's just as serious.

The rough transcript of the telephone conversation between Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president, in which Mr. Trump explicitly requested interference in the electoral process, is the smoking gun that was largely absent in the Mueller report. It constitutes clear and incontrovertible evidence of an impeachable offense.

So why is the country so divided about it? Why are Republicans from the Naugatuck Valley to Capitol Hill insisting that it's a witch hunt, that the president did nothing wrong, that former Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. is the person who should be investigated, that the Democrats are still angry that Hillary lost? And why are Democrats so bewildered that anyone could support the president after all he's done?

It's time for Democrats to listen seriously to what Republicans are saying — and for Republicans to reassess their unwavering support of the president. Consider the case of Mr. Biden's son, Hunter, who was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to the transcript: "The other thing, There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me."

It may well be worth looking into Hunter Biden's position more closely. Even if the investigation has already been closed and the Bidens found to have done nothing wrong, Democrats should be willing to acknowledge that Hunter Biden's mere presence on the board while his father was vice president looks fishy. Is it worth investigating all over again? It's worth asking the question, at least.

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But at the same time, Republicans and supporters of President Trump have to be able to separate the Hunter Biden question from the issue of Mr. Trump's conduct. Everyone, Republican and Democrat alike, should be able to agree that American elections should not be open to other countries and that other countries should not be allowed — or invited — to participate, interfere or assist a particular candidate. The integrity of the American political process is sacrosanct. Democrats should also be able to acknowledge that the question of whether Mr. Trump actually broke campaign finance law in his telephone call with Mr. Zelenskiy by seeking a "thing of value" is not cut and dried. There are reasonable interpretations on both sides. They should be discussed, rationally, without the interference of political passion.

And at the same time, Mr. Trump's supporters should acknowledge that the question of whether he abused the power of the presidency by dangling military aid as a quid pro quo for political assistance is, also, a question that should be asked and answered. Ever since Mr. Trump won the election, Republicans have asserted that Democrats are still bitter, still mad that Hillary Clinton lost, and will do anything to oppose him. But that's not it. This isn't about winning or losing or Hillary at all. It's about a president who has shown a propensity for lying from day one and an apparent disregard for the law — behavior that should concern us all.

Those concerns have only grown more serious. Sadly, because of preconceptions about "the other side" that have been fanned by hateful rhetoric, where one stands on the question of Mr. Trump is now an issue of personal identity.

It shouldn't be that way. This nation should be able to evaluate potentially impeachable behavior as rationally as possible.

In this case, President Trump's behavior appears to have crossed a clear line, and in the end, soliciting political assistance from a foreign power is illegal. Republicans should be able to acknowledge that much without feeling like their own values are at risk — because they aren't. Being Republican, or being conservative, does not mean one must bow before Mr. Trump. Republican or Democrat, every true American believes that no one is above the law. It is a cornerstone of our Democracy. It's time to stand firm, and united, on that principle.

— The Hartford Courant, Sept. 29


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